Dog Bites

If you go to a hospital emergency room to observe, it probably won't be long before you see someone come in with a dog bite injury. Every year, more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in this country. Almost 800,000 bites a year require some kind of medical attention.1

The dogs' owners are in most cases responsible for footing the bill, because they have a legal responsibility to prevent their pets from injuring people or damaging property. If a dog hurts someone, the owner will probably have to reimburse the victim for medical expenses, time lost from work, and pain and suffering. The owner's homeowner's or renter's insurance policy, however, may cover the cost, even if the injury happens off the owner's property.

The owner may also be required to take measures to prevent another incident - in the most serious cases, by destroying the dog. An owner who acts recklessly or deliberately - by letting an aggressive dog run loose around children, for example - may face a fine or even a jail sentence. (Criminal penalties are discussed in Dangerous Dogs.)


A dog owner is liable for injury the dog causes if:

  • the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury, OR
  • a state statute makes the owner liable, whether or not the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury, OR
  • the dog owner was unreasonably careless, and that's what caused the injury.

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